Basketball: Tall Blacks handed tough World Cup draw

Tall Blacks coach Paul Henare.
Tall Blacks coach Paul Henare. Photo credit: Getty

The Tall Blacks have been handed a tough FIBA World Cup draw that sees them face Greece, Brazil and Montenegro in Pool F.

The draw was made in China on Sunday morning (NZ time) with New Zealand's games to be hosted in Nanjing in August and September. 

The Tall Blacks will be the lowest ranked team in their Pool. They're currently 38th in the world, with Greece eighth, Brazil 12th and Montenegro 28th.

Despite the tough draw, coach Paul Henare is welcoming the challenge of facing some of the best teams in the world.

"This is always an exciting part of the journey to a World Cup, to finally find out who we will play and begin to put our plans in place," Henare said.

"Obviously it will be tough, it should be and will be, that is basketball. Our world ranking consistently puts us in amongst the world's best teams, but basketball is one of the true global sports, with anyone in the top 50 or 60 capable of beating a top ten team on their day.

"Greece and Brazil will be the obvious favourites in the pool, but Montenegro is also a proud basketball nation, we will get to work on some plans on how to achieve success against them all.

"My job now, with the coaching and support staff, is to pull together a preparation that will give us a shot of playing to our potential and then, of course, selecting the final roster. After our qualifying campaign, we have plenty of players putting their hands up to be on that plane."

Henare knows what it is like to defy the odds, as he and assistant coach Pero Cameron were both in that famous roster that finished fourth at the 2002 World Cup.

"We have a proud history of overcoming the odds," he said.

"You might say we have been better in those situations when no one expects us to do well, we love to be in the fight as an underdog. The team that we will assemble will pour their hearts and souls into continuing our proud record on the world stage and honouring TÅ« Kaha by representing the past, the present and the future in everything we do."

The tournament format is cutthroat, with the top two from each Group advance to the round of 16 and a shot at the medals, while those finishing third and fourth will play in classification 17 to 32 matches.

The highest-ranked team from Oceania at the World Cup will book a berth at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Australia has drawn Canada, Lithuania and Senegal in Group H.